Agenda item

Breakthrough Counselling Group Project

The purpose of the report is to update the Adult Social Services Review Panel on the Breakthrough counselling Group Project. This is an innovative project developed with partners in Croydon to address the complex issues which underpin Hoarding behaviours.


Nick Sherlock (Head of Adult Safeguarding and Quality Assurance)


The Service Manager informed Members that the Breakthrough Borders counselling project had begun in 2017 in conjunction with the charity Mind, and consisted of psycho-social support alongside decluttering activities. The project involved providing clients with a “declutter buddy” and counsellor over 12 weeks, consisting of group sessions and individual visitations. There had been success for all six of the 2017 participants, with large scale decluttering, and all sessions having been attended.


The 2018 project involved nine clients, many of whom were also dealing with past traumas, as well as active psychiatric and mental health disorders; joint work and referrals with partners had been implemented to assist clients, with contributions from the London Fire Brigade and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Seven of the nine participants had completed the project, with two having dropping out very close to the start, and one of these going on to individual counselling instead.


Black bags had been used as a measure of decluttering, as it was hoped that this could be used as an indication of success year on year. On average, 30 bags had been removed per client, with one having cleared 50. This had led to a large reduction in fire risks, fall hazards and vermin; clients had also experienced a significant increase in quality of life and social interactions. With two years of data, officers had now begun to look at the efficacy of the project, and had used telephone interviews with past participants to see to what extent hoarding had ceased. The Panel heard that anecdotal evidence indicated that some clients had stopped hoarding, and some were merely not increasing the clutter already accumulated.  The Service Manager stated that the joint work with Mind had been very successful, and had generated some positive press, with one participant and Mind councillor being interviewed in the Croydon Advertiser.


Members heard that there were 23 people on the waiting list for the 2019 project; in response to queries on how people were able to be placed on the list, the Panel learned that participants had to be willing to engage in decluttering and reducing hoarding. Those who did not see this as a problem in their lives were not eligible, but could be referred to Mind for one to one counselling. Members queried the scope of hoarding in Croydon, and learned that the council and London Fire Brigade had identified 135 potential addresses in 2016. The Panel commented on the prevalence of these problems in smaller properties, without access to external storage space, and those with mental health issues. The Chair informed the Panel of a personal experience with a women who had only agreed to declutter after their telecom provider had refused to fix their internet until their home became accessible.


The Head of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance expressed their desire for the project to become mainstream to avoid having to apply for and secure funding each year. The Panel heard that the project cost around £15,000 per year, and with some evictions costing in excess of £8,000, the project only needed to prevent two evictions to deliver savings to the council.


Members discussed personal accounts of homes they had seen in unliveable conditions, with people living on packet food and rain water. The Head of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance commented on the difficulty of identifying these issues, as they could remain largely hidden until reported or witnessed.


The Chair praised the work done on the project so far, and expressed hope that funding would be secured for the 2019 period.

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